Xi lionized ahead of congress

China | 13 Oct 2017

Inside the packed exhibition hall in central Beijing is a showcase of China's recent achievements - the country's first operational aircraft carrier, a gleaming fleet of high-speed trains, and happy villagers lifted from poverty.

While the display officially celebrates the accomplishments of the Chinese people over the past five years, it is made clear that President Xi Jinping is the man to thank.

To enter the exhibition - staged by the Communist Party's propaganda department - visitors pass through a circular antechamber with red walls, emblazoned with slogans inspired by Xi's concepts on governance.

Hundreds of images of Xi adorn the walls in each of the exhibition's 10 halls: in combat fatigues surveying the troops, holding court with foreign dignitaries, and even showing his softer side by petting a baby elephant.

By contrast, photographs of other party leaders are much smaller and displayed in less prominent spots.

Even a dinner receipt for 160 yuan (HK$189.65) bearing Xi's name is on display, reflecting his frugality.

Alongside radio shows and documentaries lauding Xi's achievements on state television, the exhibition is part of a propaganda push to bolster the stature of China's leader, ahead of a key Communist Party Congress starting on Wednesday.

At the conclave, which takes place every five years, Xi is expected to further cement his status as the country's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Although it is typical for the party to sell its key achievements ahead of major events, the propaganda effort is the most effusive for a Chinese leader in years.

Xi is being lionized as the one responsible for the country's recent successes, including an unswerving anti-corruption campaign, a buoyant economy, and growing stature on the world stage.

The effort appears designed to justify Xi's expanded powers, said Willy Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In recent years, Xi has stamped his personal leadership on reforms to the military, economy and cyberspace.

The Communist Party is trying to show that "only a strongman can marshal the forces, and pull off these near-miraculous achievements, which he is supposed to have achieved in the past five years," Lam said.

REUTERS

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